The summer is here. This means that I will have a lot more time on my hand to finally start watching stuff on my watchlist that has been piling up for some time. Here are some of the TV shows, podcasts, and YouTube channels that I am planning on watching/listening during this summer and some that I have been following and would like to recommend them to you. Like the title suggests, this is a very random list. I described this blog to be “reviews of some very random things,” so let’s embrace the randomness of it.
Let’s start with TV shows, the form of media that requires the huge commitment of time and dedication, which I often lack. But I’m always glad to try them out.
Rome is a historical drama TV series produced by HBO and BBC, originally aired in 2005 to 2007, set in the late 1st century BC Rome depicting the power struggle between Julius Caesar and Pompey Magnus in the last years of the Roman Republic and its transition to the Roman Empire under the young Caesar Octavianus. As you will see from some of my following recommendations, Roman history has been one of my favorites. Few of my history and classics professors specialized in Roman antiquity have all recommended this show. I have seen a few clips from it, and I like the characterization of figures like Cicero, Caesar, and the historical accuracy of its portrayals. Of course, the show is not a completely accurate depiction of the events and the people; there is a reason why “drama” is included in the name of its genre. And I am not expecting it to be absolutely true to history. What I want to see is its unique presentation of ancient Rome dramatized in the form of a TV show. I’m quite interested in giving it a watch.
Amusingly, I first noticed this show through a YouTube ad of its trailer. I was going to skip it until I heard the phrase “Emperor Peter,” saw the title “the Great,” noticed the show is about the wife of that certain Emperor of Russia, and everything clicked. The Great is a historical comedy-drama that will soon premiere on May 15 on Hulu, presenting the story of Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia. I am excited about this show. Historical drama and comedy is a genre with great potential and deserves more attention. For instance, The Death of Stalin (which, coincidentally, I also found out through a YouTube ad) is one of my favorite satire movies of all time and is hilarious in every rewatch. Moreover, the life of Catherine the Great is a fascinating tale and it includes perhaps my favorite historical figure of all time, Grigory Potemkin. (Though judging from the length of the first season of this show, I don’t think I will be able to see Grigory Potemkin appearing, or perhaps just a glimpse of him.) I probably shouldn’t be so excited about this show since it may not be good. But from the trailers, the humor is on-point and the cast seems promising. I really can’t stop myself from being excited to watch this.
The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle has stayed on my watchlist since the premiere of its first season in 2015 with other popular shows such as Game of Thrones (which thankfully was removed from the list due to its awful final season). I never got the time to watch it, and now its concluding season was finally released in November 2019. The show depicts the world in an alternative timeline where the Axis somehow won World War II and the United States was divided between the German Reich and the Japanese Empire. The concept sounds fascinating and the show received positive reviews. I have restrained myself from reading spoilers about this show, planning that I will watch it one day. Maybe I will.
This one doesn’t really fit the theme of historical drama TV series… We all know about The Office. I have never watched the show, but I have seen too many clips of it on YouTube and feel like I need to give it a complete watch, at least once. I don’t have a Netflix account and don’t plan on getting one, so if I decide to watch The Office I will have to finish it within the trial period of 30 days. Sounds plausible.
The easiest to consume and the most accessible form of content, the pinnacle of modern media. Listening to podcasts is a great way to spend extra time without devoting much effort. Perhaps slightly overrated and overused, but nonetheless, I like it.
The Fall of Rome
I heard about this podcast through a Reddit post (just like everything else) on r/history. I gave the first episode a listen and was immediately drawn by its distinct style of narration. The host Patrick Wyman, historian specialized in the Roman Empire, gave an in-depth examination of the background, causes, and effects of the fall of the Roman Empire from cultural, economical, and political perspectives, focusing on not just Rome itself but the entire Roman core and peripheral and the surrounding barbarian nations. As someone who is not particularly familiar with the narrative of the fall of Rome, it can be hard to follow sometimes. But Wyman presents the events in a clear, thorough, and coherent manner. His greatest strength is at his recreation of imaginary characters living in that period and presenting the events through their lens, such as the Gothic warrior Wulfila who crossed the Danube river with his tribe in AD 376 as a young soldier, fought in the Battle of Adrianople in 378 and joined the Sack of Rome in 410 as an aging veteran. This offers us the opportunity to see not just a grand impersonal historical narrative but also the impact of the fall of the Roman Empire on ordinary individuals who lived in that Mediterranean world 1500 years ago.
I have been listening to this podcast on and off for around a month, and am currently on episode 9. If you are interested in Roman history or history in general, I would definitely recommend you to try it out.
The first podcast that I ever followed back in 2015. I stopped listening to every episode in the past few years but picked it up again last winter. Hello Internet is hosted by YouTube creators CGP Grey with the channel under the same name and Brady Haran, the filmmaker behind channels like Numberphile, who both put out some of my favorite content on YouTube. New episodes are released about every month with additional special episodes reviewing every new Star Wars movie. The topics are usually pretty random but highly engaging. I can listen to Grey’s voice all day.
The Weekly Planet
A podcast covering comic books and comic book related movies, TV shows, news, and general pop culture entertainment. The Weekly Planet is hosted by James Clement, also known as Mr Sunday Movies on YouTube, and Nick Mason. The hosts have great chemistry and their discussion is always humorous and entertaining. A great podcast to play in the background.
A podcast hosted by the Ringer where they review and discuss classic movies that deserve a rewatch. The Rewatchables presents an analysis of the themes, characters, the plot of the movies and offers insights into some of the behind-the-scenes stories. Listening to this podcast has motivated me to watch some of the movies a second time (which I have not done any of them yet).
You may also know the Ringer and Bill Simmons from their sports-related materials. I have been following Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball 2.0, a sequel to his bestseller Book of Basketball published in 2009. This may interest you if you are into the NBA.
Though I spent a substantial portion of my time on the internet watching YouTube, I am subscribed to less than ten YouTube channels. Here are some of my favorites.
Latin, meaning “civil history.” As you can tell from the name, this is a channel focusing on Ancient Rome. Historia Civilis was the main driving force that got me into the history of Rome. I watched one of his videos last summer and was instantly drawn by it. Within a week, I finished every one of his videos covering the history of the Late Roman Republic from Cicero and the Bellum Catilinae in 63 BC to (at that time) his latest video on the longest year of human history, 46 BC, where Julius Caesar returned to Rome in triumph (literally) and initiated his grand reforms. His distinct animation style with these colorful squares and his comprehensive yet engaging depiction of the Roman world make him one of the most entertaining history channels on YouTube; it is certainly my favorite. I have been following the channel for the past year waiting to see his portrayal of the end of the Republic. Besides Roman history, Historia Civilis also covers other topics such as his recent series on the trial of the English monarch Charles I. His latest video recounts the funeral of Caesar in 44 BC. I would guess he will continue this series to trace the rise of Octavian, soon to be Augustus, with his struggle with Mark Antony, and I am very much excited to see them.
Perhaps my favorite YouTuber of all time. I’ve followed CGP Grey for a very long while, and his content has led me into so many different interests: flags, electoral systems, legal technicalities, Truck Simulators, etc. Though the topics are seemingly very random, the amount of work and research Grey put into each video can be clearly seen through the quality of it. I would say he is one of my inspirations behind starting this blog to present my own interests and hobbies to others. I enjoy hearing him talking about anything. Every time of him releasing a new video is a day worth celebrating.
A minimalist filmmaker. Matt not only discusses minimalism, but also productivity, creativity, and lifestyles. He shares with the audience the perspective of a minimalist and offers many helpful tips to those who are not. Some of his 30 days challenge videos also encourage me to take on the vegetarian challenge (link to the post here). His videos are always well-shot and a joy to watch.
The World Barista Champion in 2007, co-founder of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, author of book The World Atlas of Coffee (which I do own), James Hoffmann is one of the most well-known personalities in the coffee world. His knowledge of coffee – tasting, roasting, brewing, equipment, related-weird-science – is extraordinary and his videos are greatly entertaining. He has certainly helped me a lot on my personal journey in coffee.
I will most definitely not watch every TV show on this list. Nonetheless, it is a fun list to make and to look at. If you also find any of them interesting, watch it with me! If I indeed do watch any of them, I may write a review on it. (Note the word “may,” I used the word a lot but often do not deliver). Is there anything you are specifically interested in? Are there any TV shows, movies, books, podcasts, YouTube channels you would like to recommend to me? Comment and let me know 🙂
Update of this Blog
First I have to apologize (again) for not updating for so long. I have been busy with school work and the whole quarantine situation certainly did not help. But since the next few months will be the summer break for me, I will have a lot more time to dedicate to writing. Therefore, I want to have a regular schedule for posting new blog posts. Right now I am aiming at one post per two weeks. We will see how that goes.
In the last post, I’ve mentioned a potential blog post on a board game. That took a lot more research and writing than I was anticipating, but it is 85% completed. I will likely finish it within the next two weeks, so stay tuned. There are also a few other topics that I want to write about, so I am pretty excited about this summer.